Surprise! Rudolph Giuliani, attorney to U.S. President Donald J. Trump, swung by Kyiv on Dec. 4 for an unannounced two-day visit to gather even more information that could be used to discredit Trump’s political rivals and undermine an impeachment inquiry into his boss.
Back in May, Giuliani cancelled a similar dirt-digging trip to Kyiv after facing pushback both in the United States and Ukraine. He had planned to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky and his administration to try to convince them to carry out two investigations beneficial to Trump.
Six months later, the only people Giuliani could find to meet with were the same resentful former prosecutors and several lawmakers of questionable repute.
Zelensky’s administration has tried to distance itself from the impeachment scandal in Washington. And the ongoing American inquiry clearly did not need excessive attention ahead of Zelensky’s first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris on Dec. 9 to reboot the long-stalled peace talks on the Donbas.
Read more: Trump, Giuliani drag Ukraine into wild conspiracy theories
Giuliani arrived at Kyiv’s Zhuliany airport unannounced on Dec. 4 on low-cost airline Wizz Air.
He came from Budapest, where he had met with former Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko according to a tweet by Chanel Rion, a journalist with the right-wing One America News (OAN) network who traveled with Giuliani. Rion, Giuliani and the OAN crew filmed an interview with Lutsenko for a television series that the network says will debunk the impeachment inquiry.
They were joined by Andrii Telizhenko, a former Ukrainian diplomat-turned-political fixer and a commentator for the pro-Trump media; his client and former Ukrainian lawmaker Andrey Artemenko and Giuliani’s spokeswoman Christianne Allen.
Read more: The strange and meteoric rise of Giuliani’s favorite Ukrainian “whistleblower”
Giuliani also met with former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin for three days in a row, Telizehnko said. Like Lutsenko, Shokin had also previously supplied Giuliani with information that fueled conspiracy theories about former U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, one of Trump’s likely rivals in the 2020 presidential election.
Shokin was fired in 2016 at the behest of Biden, after months of pressure civil society actors, Ukrainian politicians and international partners demanding his ouster for a failure to prosecute corruption. Conspiracy theories allege that Biden wanted Shokin fired to protect his son, who sat on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, from a corruption investigation. There is no evidence that this is true.
But Trump’s attorney also found new sources of dirt in Kyiv: two Ukrainian lawmakers, Oleksandr Dubinsky and Andriy Derkach.
Dubinsky is a scandalous social media persona and former host on television channel 1+1, which is owned by oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky. He was elected to parliament with Zelensky’s Servant of the People party.
Dubinsky also has a reputation as a Kolomoisky loyalist who gloated when a heart attack struck the CEO of PrivatBank, which was formerly owned by Kolomoisky but nationalized in 2016. Kolomoisky has made no secret of the fact that he hopes to retake control of the bank.
Derkach is currently serving his sixth term in parliament. He also spent a year as the president of the state nuclear energy company Energoatom and was an adviser to Prime Minister Mykola Azarov during the reign of ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych.
His father, Leonid Derkach, headed Ukraine’s SBU security agency from 1998 to 2001. He was believed to be involved in plotting the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze in 2000 along with then-president Leonid Kuchma and two other officials but has never been charged with the crime.
Derkach followed in his father’s footsteps, entering the secret police and graduating from the KGB academy in Moscow.
Read more: 3 Ukrainian lawmakers doing Trump’s dirty work in scandal
In a video released on Dec. 6, Dubinsky said the meeting was initiated by Giuliani. He informed Trump’s attorney about a $10 billion embezzlement scheme involving former and current Ukrainian officials, offshore companies and the U.S. investment fund Franklin Templeton, with alleged links to former American president Barack Obama’s administration.
Earlier, Derkach and Dubinsky held a bizarre press conference on Nov. 20. It received little attention from major Ukrainian media outlets, but the allegations the two men made were picked up by the right-wing Zero Hedge blog and spread by Trump supporters on social media, NBC reported.
They claimed that the Prosecutor General’s Office had issued a new notice of suspicion on Nov. 14 to Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma Holdings and former minister of natural resources. The notice, they said, stated that Hunter Biden and other Burisma board members received a total of $16.5 million in pay for their services, not from the company’s work but from money stolen from Ukrainian citizens and laundered by Zlochevsky through Latvian companies.
Derkach also presented an email exchange allegedly between Polina Chizh, an assistant to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) deputy chief, and the Hanna Yemelyanova, an employee of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. The emails supposedly showed the two discussing ongoing cases being investigated by NABU, including ones into Zlochevsky.
At a press briefing on Nov. 21, Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka explained that his office widened the investigation into Zlochevsky to include suspicion of embezzlement of state funds. Ryaboshapka’s office is currently conducting an audit of 13 criminal cases involving Zlochevsky. The ongoing investigations by the NABU deal with alleged corruption by Zlochevsky to benefit his company Burisma before Hunter Biden joined the board.
In his Dec. 6 video Dubinsky claimed that prosecutor Kostiantyn Kulyk had been fired for investigating the scheme and other Burisma-related cases — a position Kulyk has maintained himself since his dismissal less than two weeks ago by Prosecutor General Ruslan Riaboshapka for refusing to take a mandatory re-qualification exam.
In a Facebook post following his meeting with Giuliani on Dec. 5, Derkach wrote that they had discussed the alleged misuse of $5.3 billion in U.S. technical aid by Ukrainian state agencies.
In particular, he claimed that in 2016, the U.S. State Department allocated $4.4 million in support of criminal justice in Ukraine to the Prosecutor General’s Office, but the money never went to the intended recipient and was distributed to non-governmental organizations like the Anti-Corruption Action Center favored by the U.S. Embassy.
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